December 26, 2008

Merry Chemo Christmas

"Have yourself a merry chemo Christmas"...somehow that lyric doesn't jive right with the melody. Yet here I sit in the Fred Hutchison Cancer Center in Seattle as mom receives a 5 hour chemo treatment.

Mom is still alive this Christmas. Is it chemo or is it Christ? Doctors had thought the multiple myeloma cancer would have taken her by now. Instead they are saying she's going to be around awhile...that's the best gift I got this Christmas.

Should I thank the Doctors or the great Physician? Of course the answer is both. The book of James makes it clear that EVERY good gift comes from the Father above. The gift of MEDICINE and the gift of MIRACLES are ULTIMATELY from the same source. So while I thank the doctors, I praise our God.

As mom and I sat in the waiting room waiting for room in the "inn of chemo", I watched the hairless cancer soldiers as they bravely marched through. Some looked as if the fight had taken flight and they were merely walking zombies waiting for the end. They needed a bigger dose of Christmas pumped into their hearts.

Christmas is the only effective drug for our death sentence. Our eyes can stay full of life, even if our life is ebbing away. For those who know Christ, chemo is not their real hope. Christ is the one who gives life to those that Isaiah said live "under the shadow of death".

Christmas shatters the darkness with the light of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Even Chemo is transformed by Christmas truth.

December 23, 2008

Christmas Ashes

Yesterday I picked up Len. Nothing unusual about that, right?
A month ago that statement would be ordinary. Today it is strange and sad.

You see, the great leader and CEO of ProMark Financial Services has been reduced to a 14 inch by 8 inch box. A small pile of ashes is all that physically remains of one of the most extraordinary human beings I have known. Yesterday I brought Len to our house.

On the way home with Len, I had to stop and do some Christmas shopping. It was surreal to think here I was buying presents and Len was no longer present.

As I pondered the reality of this sorrow, I began to feel a heaviness invade my soul. Life is so fickle, so superficial, so capricious, so unpredictable, and then it's reduced to a few ashes.

Christmas songs were playing in BARNES & NOBLE...but "Here Comes Santa Claus" wasn't giving me much hope...but then right there in the liberal aisles of books on "How to Make a Million" and "How to Seduce a Woman" and "How to Become Your Own God"....the truth of Jesus began to pierce my melancholy meditations.

As the song "Joy to the World, The LORD has come" rang out it hit me Jesus was born in a BARN and He is NOBLE!

His regal nobility shatters the darkness of death, it reframes life from a few short years to an eternity of glory. His coming breaks the curse!! Ashes are not the end of us. They are only the evidence that we were once here, but have left for heaven forever.

As the song goes on to say:
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

My SORROWS will not GROW, for HE has broken the curse! Let the blessings flow!
This is the message of Christmas! Ashes are not the final word. Jesus Is!

December 16, 2008

My Misery, His Majesty

Sometimes there is a part of me that would prefer to sit in the crow, instead of stand on the platform...that would rather be a griever instead of a comforter...that wished I could be the listener instead of the speaker...that could be poured into rather than pour out...that would rather simply be the weak one instead of be the rock.

But note the words "sometimes" and "part of me" which start the above sentence. I feel honored and fulfilled to lead, to speak, to reach out, to lift up, to be able to point people heavenward.

Yesterday was a mixture of MISERY and MAJESTY. My friend, Len's funeral was the hardest one that I have ever led. Len was a close friend, a partner in dreaming about kingdom building, still a young believer whose spiritual trajectory was just really launching upward, a man with a profound influence, brilliant intelligence and fearless generosity. Saying goodbye was MISERY.

Today I am simply exhausted fromr carrying the grief of so many people on top of my own grief. Questions, fears, doubts, sorrows flood my soul.

Last week I literally touched death 3 times in 5 days. 3 friends and church members died in one week. All had something wonderful to offer, something that will be profoundly missed in the days ahead. It has been MISERY.

"YET"..."YET" what a great word...the word "YET" does not negate what has gone before it, but rises above it to declare what is true.

Consider the Christmas song, "O Little Town of Bethlehem":
YET in they dark street shineth,
The everlasting light
The hopes and fears
of ALL the years
Are met in thee tonight!

It is TRUE...into the darkness of my MISERY a brilliant light dawns...the light of Jesus' love and truth and promises and comfort penetrate my misery and visit it with undefeatable MAJESTY!!
MY hopes and my fears are met in the CHRIST of CHRISTMAS!
MY MISERY is overwhelmed by HIS MAJESTY!

His MAJESTY is the reality that lifts my humanity into glory, into hope into certainty.
The apostle John wrote, "This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our FAITH!"
The misery the world visits upon me, canNOT overcome or defeat me, IF I take my stand by FAITH in His MAJESTY!
So here I stand today by Faith!...Faith in the babe of Bethlehem who is now the KING of heaven!

Merry Christmas is a shallow holiday greeting, UNTIL we realize the reason we can be "MERRY' in the midst of MISERY is the MAJESTY of CHRISTmas!!

December 10, 2008

Len and Zoe

As I sit grieving I watch dawn begin to paint golden pink hues across the black sky. The darkness cannot restrain the light, death cannot keep life pinned to the mat.
Len and Zoe are unconquerable.

I touched death yesterday. Len, one of my closest friends, walked through the shadowed valley of death. After being removed from the respirator he inhaled three final times as if to say, “Father, Son, Holy Spirit”. I had only a few minutes earlier invoked the power of the Triune God over his fading life.

He did not struggle, thrash, or gasp for air to hold onto this life. With a profound peace, he stepped into life. Len and Zoe were beautiful.

In the courageous manner in which he chose to die, he gave ZOE to at least 6 other people. Len and Zoe were unstoppable.

Who is Zoe? Zoe is the Greek word in the New Testament for life. It carries 3 dimensions…physical life, spiritual life, eternal life.

I was not there the day Len was born and given PHYSICAL ZOE. But I was there the day he was given SPIRITUAL ZOE. In one of our final conversations, Len thanked me several times for helping bring him to Jesus. And I was there yesterday when he was given ETERNAL ZOE.

Len’s life is not finished, his life has been relocated. The heavenly moving van showed up and took him up. He is not dead, but more alive than ever. Len and Zoe are dancing.

One of Jesus' greatest invitations was to come meet ZOE. In John 10:10 Jesus said “I have come that you might have ZOE (LIFE) and ZOE (LIFE) to the full!”

This morning as day breaks on my broken heart, I rejoice in Len and Zoe.

John 6:47 "I'm telling you the most solemn and sober truth now: Whoever believes in me has real life, eternal life (ZOE). - Jesus

December 08, 2008

Fast Life, Slow Dance

My friend may die today. He is fighting for his life with advanced lung disease. After attending a Christmas Party at my publishers in Ventura, I may have to stop at UCLA and say the final good-bye to Len. He just turned 50.

While the below poem has circulated on the internet under the false pretense of being written by a young girl dying with cancer, nevertheless, it expresses simple wisdom that all of us should hear, especially at Christmas time. As I think about Len, I think about life and how to live it. Here's to slow dancing to the music of life.

Slow Dance

Have you ever watched kids
On a merry-go-round?

Or listened to the rain
Slapping on the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight?
Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?

You'd better slow down.
Don't dance so fast.

Time is short.
The music won't last.

''Do you run through each day
On the fly?''

When you ask "How are you?"
Do you hear the reply?

When the day is done
Do you lie in your bed

With the next hundred chores
Running through your head?

You'd better slow down.
Don't dance so fast.

Time is short.
The music won't last.

Ever told your child,
We'll do it tomorrow?

And in your haste,
Not see his sorrow?

Ever lost touch,
Let a good friendship die

Cause you never had time
To call and say "Hi"?

You'd better slow down.
Don't dance so fast.

Time is short.
The music won't last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere
You miss half the fun of getting there.

When you worry and hurry through your day,
It is like an unopened gift....Thrown away.

Life is not a race.
Do take it slower

Hear the music
Before the song is over.

December 03, 2008

The ICU Blues

With three folks I love living in ICU land, it's been a bit difficult to "Deck the Halls with boughs of Holly".

One of them is one of my closest friends - we've vacationed together, skied together, experienced fabulous meals together, dreamed about the kingdom together, and watched our wives be best friends together. But now we are not together...he is fighting for every breath waiting for a lung transplant because of a rare mold disease of the lung. He is lying in an ICU bed for his 12 days of Christmas and I am throwing Christmas parties. We are not together.

I have the ICU blues...

But here's the times like these Christmas only shines brighter. Without Christ, suffering is empty, lonely, cruel, and meaningless. Because of Christ, I can look at my friend and know Christ is doing a work in him, touching lives through him, preparing him for his real life in heaven, rewarding him for every ounce of suffering, and all the time whispering his strong presence to his heart.

Christmas is not nativity scenes in malls next to the "buy one get one free" sign.
Christmas is Jesus, the babe all grown up, standing like a strong carpenter and regal King next to a bed in ICU stroking the brow of his best friend and saying, "It's going to be ok, I am Emmanuel".

The "Hallelujah" Chorus really is an antidote for the ICU blues!
And He shall reign forever and ever...!!

December 01, 2008

Thanking God for the FLEAS!

The barracks where Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsy were kept in the Nazi concentration camp Ravensbruck were terribly overcrowded and flea-infested.

They had been able to miraculously smuggle a Bible into the camp, and in that Bible they had read that in all things there were to give thanks, and that God can use anything for good.

Corrie’s sister Betsy decided that this meant thanking God for the fleas.

This was too much for Corrie, who said she could do no such thing. Betsy insisted, so Corrie gave in and prayed to God, thanking Him even for the fleas.

Over the next several months a wonderful, but curious, thing happened. They found that the guards never entered their barracks. This meant that women were not assaulted. It also meant that they were able to do the unthinkable, which was to hold open Bible studies and prayer meetings in the heart of a Nazi concentration camp.

Through this, countless numbers of women came to faith in Christ.

Only at the end did they discover why the guards had left them alone and would not enter into their barracks.

It was because of the fleas.

God is often blamed for the very things that He should be praised for. Our short sighted, earth bound perspective distorts our vision and destroys our praise.

My commitment is to be a man of praise IN all my African-American sister says, "If God brings me TO IT, He'll bring me THROUGH IT!"

November 28, 2008

Unexpected Thanksgiving

When my mother was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of blood cancer two years ago, no one was thinking of Thanksgiving 2008. She was only supposed to live for a few months.

But MOM is down from Seattle and celebrating Thanksgiving with us and we are expecting to do the same thing in 2009! Can you imagine how thankful my mom is this Thanksgiving?

But DAD is giving thanks from HEAVEN this year. Everyone expected him to be here for a long time but this Thanksgiving he's gone having died suddenly in May.

My point in relating this personal piece of news is that you never know how many chances you will get to look UP and look AROUND and say, THANKS! Won't you take advantage of your chance to tell God, THANK YOU.

Every good gift comes from God above, the God of mercy, the God of love!

November 24, 2008

The Grateful DEAD OR LIVE?

I never understood the name of the band "The Grateful Dead"....When I am dead I am going to be grateful that I lived, and grateful to have died in Christ, and grateful that my earth stay is finished so I can get home to heaven.

But while I am ALIVE I want to be "The Grateful LIVING"...the man who lives with a profound awareness of how good God has been, is, and will be to me....the man who lives with an awe of how beautiful people are, how rich life is, how stunning magnificent creation is, how amazing a child's smile is, how sweet a juicy apple really tastes, how mysterious and grand sex inside of marriage is, how splendid the sound of a great band is, how miraculous the body I live in is, how blessed a sunrise makes me feel, how a flower rings with the laughter of God....I want to be the GRATEFUL LIVING.

"He who is content with little has a continual feast!"

This week is a great week to be grateful...I want to engage in ThanksLIVING today, this week, and this life!

November 20, 2008

Counting Sheep In the Night

After 3 months of going to bed and sleeping like a baby, I am back in the real life of pastoring. Many of my nights since my sabbatical have been filled with “counting sheep”.

Who left while I was gone?

Who’s marriage is struggling?

Who’s developed a disease?

Who’s lost a family member?

Who’s lost their job? Their house?

Who’s mom got Alzheimer’s?

Who’s son was arrested?

Who’s gotten mad at someone?

Who’s had an affair?

Who’s family member was shot?

Who’s upset with the church?

Who’s mad at me about our position on homosexuality?

Who’s left their ministry position?

Who’s stopped volunteering?

Who’s dropped down to attending once a month?

Who moved?

I could fill names into these questions, in many cases, I can give you multiple names.

I have been back 20 days and all of these questions and all of these faces plow through my mind in the middle of the night.

When 1200 people call our church their home and you have been gone for 3 months…there is lots of counting to do.

That doesn’t include the corporate questions…

What staff have been underperforming?

What staff have gotten less motivated or a bit misdirected?

How do we address the economic realities we are facing?

When are the offerings going to start rebounding?

How do I restructure the staff for optimal efficiency?

How do we get the Community Center finished and operational when the bills just doubled and the City is being a huge hurdle?

So while I sleep well for 5 or 6 hours, then I awaken to count sheep.

Pastoring is a high privilege…but it’s really a hard calling.

Counting sheep is supposed to put you asleep…mine keeps me from sleep.

November 06, 2008

51 Whoo Hoo!!

51 years young today!! Some random thoughts below:

My life mission is by the power of God and to His glory to LIVE fully, LOVE sacrificially, LEARN continually, LEAD wisely, and LAUGH frequently!

How about some "51" rhymes?
51 and having fun....51 and living for One...51 and only half done...51 and loving my hon...

"Change" is the word of the hour and it's good word if you are changing forward and not backward.
I look forward to the changes God has for me this year...if you are not changing you are dying!

One of my favorite quotes for a birthday,
"Life is not a journey to the grave
With the intention of
Arriving safely in a pretty
And well preserved body,
But rather to skid in broadside,
Thoroughly used up,
Totally worn out,
And loudly proclaiming,
WOW !!!! What a ride!"

My Life Verse: For I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me! Galatians 2:20

As I walked barefoot on the beach at sunrise singing, Agnus Dei (Alleluia) I was praising God for the incredible joy of living, loving, and dancing in the ocean surf! Asking Him give me 51 more years like these and then swoop me home to dance forever!

November 03, 2008

Do We Burn Witches?

My heart is broken in many ways over the election tomorrow. I will discuss only one.

Here is a quote from an influential homosexual about Proposition 8, "..."Christians used to burn witches, now they legislate against homosexuals. Everyone needs a hobby".

For 5,000 years in every country, in every religion, in every culture, in every generation, marriage has been defined as being between a male and female. This is the definition of marriage. Proposition 8 only affirms what is natural, historical, and Biblical.

I have been called a "hate-monger" because I believe this to be true. The truth is I love homosexuals and have dear friends who are gay.

I respect the rights of homosexuals, and homosexual couples. They have those rights in "civil unions". But marriage is a "God-Word" not a "constitutional word", not a political "word".
Marriage will always only be between a man and a woman, regardless of what laws people pass.

My "hobby" as a Bible-believing, Christ following person of conviction is not "hunting witches" but serving broken people with love...and we are all broken in some way. My gay friends feel that love.

But Californians (being fed the imaginative lies of a grossly liberal media) are getting a big dose of "Christians are witch hunters who hate gays".

How can we compete against such lies? We can't outshout them, we can't "out-clout" them, we can't "out-spend" them, we can't out-argue them (although our logic is sound and in my opinion higher), SO we MUST "OUT-LOVE" them to break through the lies.

I have had many homosexual friends come out of the lifestyle and praise God and thank me that their brokenness has been healed. They were loved into truth.

Maybe a few misguided Christians burnt witches...some will burn gays today...but if we always judge a group by the worst of its history or the most radical fringe of its label...we will always miss the truth.

Real Christians don't burn witches but we burn with love FOR witches.
I pray that love displaces lies in the days ahead.

October 31, 2008

Halloween: Talking Death

Halloween...remembering the dead. While I am aghast that Halloween has become a multi-billion dollar industry in the USA, while I am repulsed by most of the aspects of Halloween, I do think we can hitchhike on Halloween and get some mileage for the Kingdom of God out of it.

For example...D.L. Moody, the great evangelist, once said, "If I can get a person to seriously think about their soon coming death for even ten minutes, they are generally well on their way to embracing the gospel" (a loose quote but the essence is accurate).

Our death is certain and the time is uncertain, therefore, we better make certain that we are certain where we are headed when the curtain closes for us.
Stats in Long Beach, CA are that one out of one people...die!
If we can spring board from "Halloween" to "how are we" with death? it could serve us well...

Well, Deb and I back home after 3 months, after Canada, Florida, Honduras, Grand Cayman, Belize, Mexico, Seattle, Oregon, Maui, and whew...more on that subject later.

Also, a full page ad comes out today in Ministry Today magazine for our book "15 Characteristics of Effective Pastors". It will go to over 330,000 addresses between print and e-version. Praying some pastors and leaders are motivated to read it.

October 13, 2008

2 Drumsticks

Drumsticks, Cranberry Sauce, Mashed Potatoes, Special Salads, Stuffing, Dressing, Homemade (for city folks that means not store-bought, restaurant-bought, not Costco-bought, not bakery bought) Pumpkin Pie! Sounds like Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving in Canada is on the second Monday of our Pastor, Stuart and his wife Teresa, and the 5 kids, had us over for Thanksgiving.

As the Sun set over the mountains in west and the full moon rose over the pine trees in the East...we feasted on the goodness of God, his bountiful supply, the laughter of friendship, the sharpening discussion of ministry and mission, and the beauty of nature.

This of course means I will get 2 Drumsticks....2 times to tell God "thanks" this year! And as you might have imagined, HE DESERVES IT!

While this has been in many ways one of the hardest years of my life (mom with cancer, sister fighting cancer, dad's sudden death, financial loss on a real estate deal, bouts with tremendous back pain) this has also been one of the most glorious.

My cup runs over and splashes on the table and runs down the floor and out the door and down the street...and all the way it sings and shouts - Hallelujah! Hosanna! None Like Jesus! No King Like Mine! Awesome God of Greatness!

As I was reading large quantities of the Word today, I came to one of my favorite verses:
Psalm 62:11,12 - "One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, 12 and that you, O Lord, are loving."

If God is STRONG (powerful enough to overcome anything I face in life or at death) and if God is LOVING (personally committed to expressing his kindness, goodness and care for me) then LIFE IS AWESOME and only going to get better!

What a mighty God we serve! I get Thanksgiving twice this year but really it's a 365 kind of Holiday (Holy Day) for me.

Give me 2 Drumsticks...and I will pound out a percussion of praise to my KING!
(P.S. Interesting side note...Deb fixed the turkey but because we could only find a smaller fresh turkey we bought there were actually 4 drumsticks...which worked out GREAT because they have 4 boys who each love the fighting over drumsticks! God provides!)

October 09, 2008

The Rich Man and the Church

Yesterday we had a long talk with one of the leading business and civic leaders in the Vernon\Silver Star area. We were talking real estate but of course the subject has a way of getting around to God and church.

Speaking of the church we attend when in Vernon (Vernon Alliance Church) the gentleman said, "Oh I have heard good things about that church...they help people." It was interesting to me that his comment was not, "they have great preaching" or "excellent music" or "a beautiful building". This non church going, wealthy man was impressed with one thing: "They help people!"

I believe the credibilty of our church in the community is directly tied to how much we "help people". The unchurched smell a rat when we talk about our love for the community but the primary thing we spend money on is making the "church club better for the members".

Spent the day running errands, reading, getting the houses ready for the carpet cleaner and buying 110 towels at Costco (for the people who rent our house here at Silver Star).

Had the second church hot spot to deal with since I have been gone. I got a message late last night and then had an anxiety dream about it during the night. So thankful for Pastor Vern and other Staff and leaders who love the church and do a good job of handling these matters.

Leaving for 3 months is a wonderful thing but also a scary thing because the devil is out to attack during my absence...."Lord, I trust you and the leadership at LLCF...turn back every attack of the evil one!" The devil will do anything to keep us from concentrating on "helping people!"

October 07, 2008

God and the Moose

On Monday...Spent the morning washing windows, doing painting prep, and helping Deb.

At 1pm we drove to Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park with our bikes on back. We jumped on our bikes and began a 10 mile ride that was stunning in beauty. Between the brilliant colors of autumn, the turquoise blue of the lake, the crispness of the clear mountain was breathtaking.

About half way through the ride my bike crank broke and I had to walk my bike that last four miles.

After arriving back to the jeep we loaded bikes and headed up the mountain...and coming around a curve we saw a huge, majestic moose! 25 years of driving the road up to the ski area we have never really seen a moose...we had on 3 occasions seen glimpses of what we swore was a moose. But yesterday we saw the elusive moose and pulled over to get a picture...before the moose disappeared into the forest we got two pictures but later discovered the camera had been on macro so we don't really have the proof we need to silence the naysayers who don't believe us.

I don't know what God is like for you, but sometimes God is like that Moose for me...I get glimpses of His presence and I know that I know that He is out there, very near but still invisible. Occasionally I get "full on" sightings of God and I try to capture those moments so I can prove to people His reality...but alas, God refuses to be contained in some tangible box that I would want to trap Him He lives on in my stories of His reality.

I will tell His story and pray that others get their own glimpses of His reality.

October 06, 2008

Church Hopping and SNOW!

Got up to go "church hopping"! Sunday morning and out to learn what it's like to be a visitor in 2 very different kind of churches. One of the great privileges of my sabbatical is the opportunity to visit other churches.

Drove to Kelowna to catch the first hour of church at NEW LIFE, an openly charismatic, loose kind of church about the size of LLCF. I sat on the back row because I knew I had to leave before it would get over...Note to self...pray for people on the back do they "get into sitting all the way back there"? Worship was good...very authentic, quality decent, very "flowy" and definitely not "showy". Big flags of bright colors were waved by both men and women as they slowly danced in worship...children pranced around with their own little flags...people talked to one had an informal but sincere feel to it...some people were way into it....others were praying for each other. It kind of dragged because it took 45 minutes to go through 5 or 6 songs and then communion was served with the same kind of serious but informal feel..."hey come up front and someone will serve you." Couldn't believe all the young families there.

Had to leave before the message but I would definitely go back and meet some of the folks.
It seems from the bulletin that they are trying to do a lot of missional things.

Went to Trinity Baptist a mega-church that follows a "church growth, seeker sensitive model". Had great parking attendants, but I went in the wrong door...once in the door it was easy to find the auditorium (not a sanctuary or worship center). Friendly and helpful usher. Stage lighting was cool. Good worship...led by a 20something guy and mostly young folks on the platform...(to me that's always a good sign). The leader tried to get some energy from the church...they were happy to politely sing but more than that was stretch. Very programmed church but well done.
The special music was excellent. Tim Schroeder, who has led that church for 23 years but recently stepped down to just be the teaching pastor, brought a message on passing on values to our children....well crafted, powerful use of scripture, beyond seeker-directed...did a great job and then just closed with a prayer.

I liked the excellence and the spirit of the leaders of the church...probably a little too corporate feel for me...but great hearts and being effective I'm sure.

Then I was reading about the "organic church" in "The Forgotten Ways" by Alan Hirsch. This is for the most part advocating church on a mission, especially celebrating the "home church model".

When I got back up the mountain to the started to SNOW! Gorgeous fluffy didn't stick but it snowed for the next 3 hours. Then I went power-walking and had a chance to minister to our next door neighbor who is fighting a debilitating physical neurological condition.
Her young heart (28 year old single gal) was opened up by the interest that Deb and I had shown to her.

Charismatic, Baptist, or home group...the big thing is...Are we helping hurting people with the authentic love of Christ and is His truth being accurately explained to get life to the lost?

These experiences are helping me see our church differently and making me so earnest that we do a great job of helping guests feel loved without feeling smothered.

Teach Me to Preach

On Saturday had a great day studying sermon preparation and delivery with Andy Stanley.
Learned a lot from Andy but was unconvinced to adopt all of his style...especially a "no notes, one point message." Andy acknowledges that each person needs to develop their own style but also aggressively confronts those poor preachers who hide behind the excuse that "that's just not my style". I agree.

My best clues for life transforming messages came from Jesus' style.
Many folks are shocked to find out Jesus never taught verse by verse through the OT. He was saturated in the Old Testament but he launched from what the Father was telling him to communicate in that situation. He used a lot of the Old Testament but it was digested and put in understandable language.

Here are my clues and cues on preaching as I see them in Jesus.
1. Be prayed up.
2. Listen to the Father.
3. Look at the needs of the people.
4. Launch from the foundation of the Word.
5. Tell Stories that relate the truth to people's lives. Paint word pictures.
6. Ask for decision and life change.
7. Balance the grace of God with the fear of God.
8. Be authentic and real.
9. Demonstrate the Word in your own life. Be the message.
10. Speak clearly but leave room for some mystery.
11. Fill your messages with hope.
12. Speak from compassion for the people.
13. Leave the results to God.

Took a long mountain bike ride with Deb...ate the last of the mountain raspberries along the path.
Went church and heard Stuart preach the Word...Psalm 5:1-3 and Romans 8:26,27.
A Message on Prayer called "Words, Sighs, and Cries" Interesting and a helpful and hopeful message. Stuart does a great job with bringing truth and keeping it real and approachable.

Watched a movie with Deb and went to bed.

October 04, 2008

Smelling Jesus

What did it smell like after the Flood? My guess is that it smelled like it does after a strong thunderstorm washes away all the grime in the air and leaves behind the fragrance of fresh....but then multiply that times 100.

As I studied Noah yesterday I was impressed by the newness after the flood...corruption had been washed away...the stench of sin and violence had been banished...hope and life was bursting out all over...with the rainbow arching overhead the fragrance of God was saturating the air.

Later in the day...we had a thunderstorm here and it washed the air clean. The fall colors were dazzling and the aroma of the forest was vibrant and rich. As we took a long walk through the forest we could not breath deeply enough. I am not sure of course but I think it smelled like Jesus.

In the evening we went with our Pastor (Stuart and Teresa) to a Steve Bell Worship\Concert. What a treat of the Holy amazing time of sitting in the presence of I sat there I smells like Jesus in here...

You know how people have a certain "fragrance" to them? I think Jesus smells like a forest after a thunderstorm. It's a powerful but tender smell, a fresh and hope-filled aroma, a rich, embracing, majestic, personal, and deeply satisfying fragrance.

I want to inhale HIS fragrance deeply so that it pours out of my pores and people smell Jesus through me!

October 03, 2008

Dancing Naked!

Naked...that picture is one that is scary or seductive or ugly or artistic.

Today Deb and I cleaned windows for much of the day...but then I spent time studying how to preach more effectively and also time in Word including Genesis 1-5.

I was riveted by the phrase that before the Fall, Adam and Eve were "naked and unashamed". But immediately after they choose sin, their eyes are opened and they realize they are naked and they proceed to design a suit of fig leaves to cover themselves.

We are certainly not dealing with pornography here, nor are we dealing with ugliness...but we are dealing with fear and insecurity and inferiority and transperancy and self-consciousness and comparison and the limiting power of a broken self-image.

The "imago dei", the image of God, that they had been created in, had been their conscious reality up to this point. They lived in the glorious liberty of TRUSTING only God's opinion, His communication is the ONLY thing that defined their self-image. They danced naked in the garden in a joyful whirl of freedom.

But once sin stained their self-image they began to hide themselves, cover themselves, stumble in their relationship with each other and with God.

Washing windows made me think of nakedness and openness. We live with shutters on our lives.

Some people have the shutters tightly shut, others have them slightly open, a few have them half open, only a handful of people have ripped down the shutters opening themselves fully to God and to others. I want to live with the shutters torn down...not in a "screw your opinion of me" but in the security of... "the only opinion that really counts is God's and He loves me so fully that I can dance naked in the beauty of who God made me".

What a freedom to live without having to impress people and live responsive only to God's direction...I am not there yet...but it's the direction of my journey.

In the evening we had a great time with our pastor and his wife and kids eating bbq'd shrimp, pasta and apple crate pie!

October 02, 2008

The Wisdom of Discipline

After spending the morning unpacking and getting the house organized again, I climbed to the summit and spent much of the afternoon with the Lord.

Journaling, praying, reading the Word, meditating, dreaming, all from one of my favorite spots in the world. Overlooking a hundred miles of mountains, trees, valleys, and lakes.

Psalm 1 described my desire to be a "tree planted by the river producing fruit"...that is the craving and cry of my heart for my life. Proverbs 1 links wisdom together with discipline. Where there is true wisdom, you will find a person of discipline. A disciplined lifestyle is what lead to real prosperity in all arenas of life. It is the merging of intellectual\spiritual truth (knowledge) and personal application to life (discipline) that results in true wisdom and the resulting prosperity. This combination is what keeps the tree planted by the river so that it drinks in the sun and the water and bears abundant fruit.

I must say that I was sickened by the destruction in lives that I observed during our cruise. A lack of discipline showed up as foolishness. Manifestations: obese people with their plate stacked with ten different desserts, gamblers in the casinos sitting for hours pulling the lever of losers, partiers staggering and sick from too much alcohol, people buying so much stuff they didn't need that they had to ship it home via FedEX from the ports of call.

So Lord, I pray...give me a life of discipline...I like the saying, Be tough on yourself or life will be tough on you. I am not talking about a grit your teeth, self-flaggelating, form of life. But the kind of discipline where you do what you really want to do, not what some temporary, deceptive emotion of the flesh calls you towards. Where you trade the happiness of an impulse purchase for the joy of money saved. Where you trade the pleasure of an extra 500 calories for the joy of a few special bites and pants that fit. Where you trade the comfort of laziness for the joy of accomplishment after having walked for 30 minutes.

So God grant me the life of wisdom and discipline.

October 01, 2008

Exhausting and Exhaling

There is an old gospel song that Andre Crouch made famous...It goes like this:

How can I say thanks for all the things you have done for me,

Things so undeserved, yet you give to prove your love for me.

The voices of a million angels could not express my gratitude

All that I am or ever hope to be, I ow it all to thee!

To God be the Glory, for the things He has done!

The song expresses my sentiment.

God moved in a powerful way during my ministry time in Florida with pastors and leaders.

3 days of engagement by the truth and love and power of the Holy Spirit among us.

The messages were translated into 4 different languages and yet there was a supernatural unity among us. It was a battle and I had little sleep but we experienced breakthrough.

By Sunday afternoon, I was elated and exhausted.

Pastor Rex Bullock was a generous and gracious host.

Deb had flown in on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon we boarded the Carnival Legend Cruise ship to sail to the Western Caribbean.

We had 4 ports of call, Grand Cayman, Honduras, Belize, and Cozumel.

Incredible swimming, snorkeling, exploring, and culture tasting.

The boat was amazing. Our room had a balcony and was just super.

It was the most relaxed I have ever seen Deb. We both felt like we were deeply EXHALING.

We will never forget this celebration of our 30th Wedding Anniversary.

We flew home and we sat between two HUGE Seattle Seahawk Pro Football Players.

Had a fun time with them.

Back in Seattle we helped MOM move into her new home and then drove back to Silver Star Canada to our house. It's a beautiful, warm early fall day here.

September 23, 2008

The 3 Minute Blog

This is my 3 minute blog because internet costs a dollar a minute on this Carnival Cruise Ship!

Deb and I are happily crusing the Western Caribbean...courtesy of the Free Methodist Churches in Florida generous financial gift and Light & Life's generosity in giving us time off. My blogging will be spotty if existent at all.

We are celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary and having a blast. Thanks for your prayers for the Pastor's conference in Florida...God was amazing to us.

Love you all. ...time's up....ahhhhhhh!

September 16, 2008

Full Moon

Monday I got up early, did some chores and preceded to work on messages for Florida.

Ran some errands and went to the Lake to read and ski and kept working on messages while on the boat.

Had a good talk with Steve...the owner of the campground on the lake...a wealthy First Nations (Native Canadian man)...he shared about his new age beliefs and I shared about my beliefs as a follower of Jesus. He tried to convince me that I was god and could therefore channel my energy for healing others. He tried to persuade me that we were the same. I shared that I had an objective basis for my faith...the Word of God and Son of God...and that I was a child of God but was not God and that I needed a Savior. I did not convince Steve but I think Steve felt listened to and loved.

Went for a bike ride when we got back to the mountain and watched an amazing MOONRISE...full moon rising over the Canadian! It drew me into worship in a powerful way. And to think the moon has not light of its own but is merely a reflection of the sun. I breathed my own prayer...Jesus make a full moon of your love. Too often I am sliver or quarter...but Spirit of Jesus shine fully through my life so I may draw others to worship you.

French Fries and Jesus

Sunday, I went to prayer for our church and asked God to meet our people at Light & Life in an uncommon way.

Next I went to work on my message for the Florida conference. I thought I would use previously prepared material but as I moved forward in prayer a whole new direction emerged. This was exciting but taxing and has taken many hours.

About 2pm we went to the lake...a 35 minute trip that brought us to a gorgeous afternoon of reading and waterskiing. Came back and took a long hike as the sun went down.

I finished reading YOU-Staying Young...a great book, highly recommended to anyone 30 and older. Had so many great ideas for how to do better temple maintenance.

Did Jesus eat french fries? Nachos? Ice Cream? Donuts? I don't know but I do know he took care of his "temple".

"Jesus deliver me from french fries! I love them but they hate me. They clog my arteries with gunk that shortens my life...I want 50 more years of life and life for all 50 years more (if you tarry) God give me "temple" wisdom and "spiritual discipline".

September 14, 2008

Awakening to Imago Dei

Yesterday, I began work in earnest on my teaching for this coming weekend in Florida. I was bummed that I would have to teach during my sabbatical but a long standing commitment could not be broken and it is a very important and large gathering of pastors and leaders in the SouthEast. But as I began working, writing and praying I became energized by what God was giving me to share.

I began praying deeply about the "IMAGO DEI" and the Spirit was deepening my spirit...opening my eyes to a new self-image that used the Imago Dei as its starting point, its defining point. 1 John 3:1-3 join with Genesis 1:26 to awaken my spirit to who I am in Christ.

I believe God has given me an important word. It is a lot of work and getting back in the groove is a little difficult. This is the longest period of time in 30 years that I have gone without preaching or teaching. Can you believe that?

After about 5 hours of work, Deb and I went down to the LAKE and enjoyed a gorgeous late summer\early fall day on the water. I skied one of the best runs I have had in years on breathless, glassy water.

Then we went to Vernon Alliance Church and worship was amazing...very powerful. Stuart taught us from John 17 on the prayer of was a good word calling us to unity in diversity, and to realize that Jesus prayer for us is being answered in different moments of our lives and that we should awaken to that.

I had never considered that...awakening to "oh this is a moment when I am being brought into unity with someone or with God" and it's refreshing and empowering..."oh yeah Jesus prayed for moments like these". In those moments I am awakened to the reality of "Imago Dei"...that I am his child, stamped with his image, a spiritual being having a brief earth stay before the fullness of reality and eternity dawn.

After church we ate at Earl's, drove up the mountain and dropped into bed.


Friday found me finishing the TNT - The New Testament! Reveled in Revelations as my mind and spirit filled with the spiritual realities that I will experience in the near future.

Revelations is one of those books filled with so much MYSTERY and so much MAJESTY. Sometimes I get so lost in trying to understand the MYSTERY that I miss the MAJESTY. The truth is that this is the book of the Bible that says you will receive a blessing just from reading it.

I believe it. It lifts your eyes up and forward and behind....UP to heaven, FORWARD to the future, and BEHIND the physical scenes to the spiritual REALITY.

My heart sings with those around his throne...Glory and Honor and Power and Praise to the LAMB! Holy, Holy, Holy. There is none like you oh Lord...the Lamb and the Lion, the sacrifice and the conqueror.

How often have I read the last 2 chapters to those who are dying and given them the hope and the comfort of what is ahead. Death is a MYSTERY but it leads to the MAJESTY of Heaven for those who follow the LAMB.

(The day also consisted of more reading, writing, bbq, long mountain hike, and some chores.)

September 12, 2008


Yesterday, 1, 2, 3rd John and Jude spoke to me as I meditated on their wisdom. You can't help but read those letters and not be struck with the balance between truth and love.

The ultimate truth is love because God is love. The apex of our service for God is to lavishly love others in the same way that God has lavishly loved us. This love is not warm feelings or nice words, it is the gritty kind of love that gets under another person's burden and lightens the load.

It is love in tangible and visible ways that honor the ONE that is invisible. Our love for God is manifested most purely not when we sing our love songs to Him but when we sing His love songs to someone who is sick or stuck in sin.

Yet John is careful not to allow the paramount nature of love to be carelessly defined by our own imaginations of it. Not on your life! He calls us to an unequivocal commitment to doctrinal certainties which can never be diluted by appealing to our demonstrations of love. Love that is not structured by the love of the cross, the love of the person of Christ, the love of God's Word will usually degrade into some form of selfishness and ultimately it will fail the definition of saving love.

It is interesting that JUDE follows these love letters of John as it illustrates what happens when love without truth, and truth without love are allowed to fester and grow. Clouds without rain, love feasts without holiness, humility and sacrifice, these are the bitter end of divorcing love and truth.

Whoa...a little more theological than most anyway...took a LONG NAP on the boat...can you believe it? My last nap was in Kindergarten on one of those little mats. (not really) but they are few and far between and a sabbatical seemed like a great place for one. After 17 years of Sr. Pastoring it was time for a NAP.

NAPS are for KIDS silly Rabbit...but maybe not.

In my doctoral class with Richard Foster (amazing author and teacher) he said sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is take a NAP. I felt like that and woke up with TRUTH and LOVE filling my spirit. God was very near! So I went water-skiing and heard Him laugh....not at me but with LOVE over me!

Did tons more reading, spent time prepping for the SouthEast Atlantic Leadership Conference next weekend, talked with Lindsey and TJ on SKYPE VIDEO, watched a little "24", had some good talk time with Deb, and spent some time in prayer for the church.

September 11, 2008

"...then the rope broke"

After a morning of being in the Word, reading books, blogging, and lots of housecleaning to help Deb…we went to the lake to boat, read, swim, and ski.

At one point in the afternoon the water settled down until it was a flat as glass…a water-skier’s dream. So I jumped out of the boat with my ski, grabbed the rope and handle and positioned myself for a great run. Deb put our powerful tournament ski boat into gear and punched the gas. The rope grew taunt and I was thrilling as the boat pulled me to an upright postion and THEN THE ROPE BROKE. I fell backwards with a splash, the rope whiplashed and hit Deb (she wasn’t hurt) and the power and fun were instantaneously cancelled. Bummer…what could have been a glorious run fizzled into a flop in the water.

Upon examination we discovered two things…there was a knot in the rope and the rope had frayed right at the point of the knot. I had noticed the knot a couple of weeks ago but had rationalized it… “it won’t hurt anything”, “it’s too hard to get out”, “I can just let it go for now”, “I will get to it later”. But the rope began to come apart at the point of the knot and eventually it snapped and my denial, my excuses, my delays were all proved destructive.

As I later reflected on the incident the Holy Spirit quickened to my mind a passage I had read that morning in 1 John 1:10- “If we claim, we have not sinned, we make him out to be liar and his word has no place in our lives”.

Sin creates knots in my life, tangles that need to be straightened out, strongholds of the enemy that need to be fixed instead of ignored. Things seem fine for a while and I begin to think I can live with this…it’s not hurting anything…BUT a break is coming.

“Jesus, tell me the truth about me…identify the knots in my life…deliver me from denial and delay…let your Word have first place in every aspect of my life untangling the knots I tie through my doubt, desires, and disobedience.”

We DID fix the rope and had some delightful runs on a gorgeous late summer day on Lake Okanagan.

Later Pastor Stuart and Teresa came to the house and we served them dessert in honor of Teresa’s graduation from esthetician school that day! Stayed up late eating delicious cobbler and laughing at the misadventures of a wacky esthetician class.

September 10, 2008


1 and 2 Peter are letters from the fisherman who had a propensity for filling his mouth with his foot. But after years of following Jesus and serving the church in Jerusalem, his commendable zeal has been matched with his deep wisdom. The Holy Spirit writes powerfully through Peter of how to grow, how to be effective, and how to get ready for the wrap up of human history.

Most of all Peter tells us who we REALLY are...a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, destined for glory forever.

Also as I read Hebrews I was struck by the term "DAILY".
Jesus taught us to take up our cross "daily".
Jesus taught to to pray for "daily" bread.
In Thessalonians Paul pleads that our "daily" lives would demonstrate Christ so clearly that non-believers would be persuaded.
Hebrews says that our battle is so tough we need to encourage each other "daily".

Then in "The Success Principles" book that I am reading by Jack Canfield he stresses the importance of "daily" habits that end up creating a "life".

After a long mountain hike, Deb and I watched 3 episodes of "24" on dvd in the evening. If you have never seen the show each episode is one hour and the whole season is walking you through 24 consecutive hours of adventure and double crosses.

You could watch "The Road Runner" cartoon and see basically the same show with just a little less sophistication. Jack Bauer is "Wile E. Coyote" in The Road Runner Cartoon. You can drop a boulder on his head or throw him off a cliff and he survives and 30 minutes later is miraculously beating up another bad guy. Jack is the most resilient man I have ever seen.

Then I was reading a really heavy theology book "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Brueggemann. He writes of how "moderation is a delusion and only extremists are in touch with reality". You would have to read the book to keep you from misunderstanding his meaning in that statement BUT there is a radical call to live TODAY, this 24 Hours with an "extreme" love and faith that disrupts the status quo of injustice!

All this to say, 24 Hours is the division of time that God created us to operate from. With a "death" each night and a "resurrection" each morning.
My prayer is that I can live each "24" with the same passion, focus, and resilency as Jack Bauer.

September 09, 2008

Holy Haircut

My favorite thing about sabbatical so far has to be the opportunity to SOAK in the "Holy Bible Hot Tub". When do I get 3 uninterrupted hours just to read large portions of God's Word? Especially the freedom to read without any thought of "how can I use this help someone?".

Soaked in Hebrews and reveled again in the joy of knowing Christ is my "High Priest" and my "brother" who has been tempted in all the same ways that I am, thus calling him should be my automatic response to all temptation.

Spent time dealing with a magazine that is going to be advertising the book Kevin Mannoia and I wrote.

Went to Kelowna to help Deb run errands. While there got a haircut or as my dad used to say, "Got my ears lowered". This event turned out to be a teaching point for me.

Getting your haircut with a new "barber" or "stylist" is always an adventure. One other time I got a haircut in Canada and it was a disaster that took 4 weeks to recover from. I don't think I'm very vain but when you it looks like a bowl was used as the template for your style, it's kind of humilitating.

So with a prayer and a sigh, I entered the hallowed, hair-filled, hall of "New Hair Salon". The girls were playing poker but stopped long enough to look up and then drew straws to see who would have to cut the "old guy's" hair. Karly lost, so she took over with the confidence of a teen driver trying out a stick shift for the first time.

The next hour Karly's scissors were taking small snips of hair, but she ensured she kept her body between me and the mirror...I could hear and imagine the damage up top but I couldn't view it. My prayers were more fervent, every time she said "whoops!"

More seriously, I felt worse and worse not about my haircut but about Karly's life. Question after question was met with an answer that had "empty" written all over it. I kept thinking, "Karly you need a new stylist for your life!" My heart was honestly moved for her plight.

The Lord seemed to be speaking to me about the emptiness of the human heart and the nourishment of His Word (which I had enjoyed so richly in the morning). My life has a mission of bringing His LIFE to empty lives.

Finally Karly was finished and she said, "You want to take a look?". (Drum Roll...please) What do you know but Karly had done a great job! I still didn't look like Brad Pitt but I didn't look like Danny Divito either. My compliment and my tip were the highlight of her day.

Lord, I pray that people who are living dead end lives, can come to know your love that "re-styles" everything in life. Use me, Lord, I pray.

some of the story above was grossly exaggerated

September 08, 2008

Feasts and Muscles!

"George Eats Potatoes Cold" acrostic to remember, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. I feasted not on cold potatoes but on the "filet mignon", the "steak and lobster", of God's Word yesterday morning as I read those four books and went soaring into spiritual places of truth and hope and worship!

Then went to Vernon Alliance Church (VAC) and had a fulfilling time of worship. Pastor Stuart, (the star of the Head Damage Point Blog a few days ago) taught a delightful, unique, and helpful teaching on "The People's Prayer"...the "Lord's Prayer". Through one of his sermon illustrations he taught me a new prayer.

Stuart is the father of 4 boys ages 13 and under. At the dinner table they love to compare muscles between themselves. After a time they ask Stuart..."Show us your muscles, Dad, Show us your muscles!" And when Stuart unveils his "guns" they ooh and awe over the sheer power.

When we pray, "Your kingdom come" we are asking our Father, "Show us your muscles, Father", "Demonstrate your power so that our part of the world starts to look a little more like heaven, so that our lives are impacted by your presence, so the enemy begins to retreat in fear of you!"
"Father, Show us your muscles in Long Beach...change our church, our city by the power of your kingdom."

Then we spent a delightful afternoon on the lake--swimming and reading and waterskiing.

After driving the 15 miles back up the mountain, we took a long hike to drink from the mountain stream, pick raspberries, pick wildflowers.

It was a day of feasting on God's love through His Word, through Creation, through His Church, through Deb. I saw my Father's Muscles and did eat any cold potatoes.

September 07, 2008

Hard Work and Hot Water Tanks

Exploding hot water tanks, Batman! Yesterday was a long, long day of working on both houses with Dwight and Shelley, our friends and partners.

Undoubtedly the highlight was when Dwight and I were flushing one of the hot water tanks and the water pressure caused the valve (not the tank!) to explode sending calcium chunks and water all over us and the entire room. It was hysterical....and a pain to clean up.

I just finished reading 2 Thessalonians and Paul points out how hard they worked while at Thessalonica. He says, "we could have sat around just teaching and preaching and made you all pay for our room and board... that was our perogative. But we didn't...we worked hard." Then he says, "Warn those that are lazy, idle, non-working, mooches....don't even have lunch with them!"

Ministry is hard work and I feel blessed to take a sabbatical...thanks God for the incredible saints of Light & Life and for our FM conference which supports Deb and me by giving us this much needed break.

But even on this break, it's nice to put in some hard work, whether that's reading and studying for 10 hours, or it's cleaning, fixing, renovating for 14 feels good.

I realize I only enjoy leisure and pleasure if it's in balance with hard work. I am reminded that WORK was a creation of God and that in the Garden of Eden before the FALL...Adam and Eve worked and enjoyed it...BUT I bet their hot water tank didn't explode either!!
P.S. A big shout out to our incredible daughter, Lindsey! She turned 24 yesterday and what an awesome daughter, minister, servant of Christ, worshipper, sister in Christ she is...Sept 6 is the Memorial Day of a Miracle...her birth when God raised her from the dead (literally she was born dead) and spared Deb's life.

September 06, 2008

Laudramat Larry

Got up and read all of Galatians!
Galatians is a powerful argument for freedom...freedom from the condemnation of the law, freedom from salvation by works, freedom from the flesh. I can hear the apostle Paul shouting in joy as he is for FREEDOM that Christ has set you FREE!

When we get this amazing truth...nothing can hurt us deeply or permanently...nothing can scare us or overcome us...whatever the enemy tries against us is going to soon be utterly defeated...Christ has purchased my victory and paid my penalty and promised me an ongoing life of fullness with Him forever! I am FREE.

Spent the day working on the house with Dwight, Shelley, and Deb...and my illustrious career as a laundry boy entered a whole new dimension...9 washing machines at once...all by myself...I was running from machine to machine like a cat on a hot tin roof...I was the Mr.Clean of the laudramat. We were washing bedding for 14 different beds and I was the CHOSEN one to carry out the mission.

Jesus washed feet...the least I can do is wash duvet covers, sheets, and quilts. True confession that I can make safely since Deb never reads my blog...on the first 5 loads I mixed up the fabric softner with detergent...until the last minute of the wash cycle! When I discovered my mistake I was running like a mad man pouring detergent in the machines. People who I had been looking down my nose at a few minutes earlier for being the laundry low-lifes...were now laughing at my antics. I was humbled and began looking at the "laudramat lifers" with a new level of respect! I started asking for help and things went better.

I got to thinking Jesus has to take me through things like this. He uses the detergent of his conviction and the fabric softner of his grace to clean me up and soften my heart. It just feel like sometimes he leaves me on spin cycle a little too long!

We worked until 6pm and had a steak dinner and then worked until 10pm...putting up shelves in closets, cleaning etc.

September 05, 2008

Suffering, Bears, and Woodpeckers

Read through 2 Corinthians and was struck by the sacrifices Paul made for the gospel. The Holy Spirit was asking me, “what have I sacrificed for the kingdom?”… “in what ways have I suffered to advance the gospel?”

“Suffering” and “sacrifice” are not the “feel good” words that American Christians want to hear. Talk about “abundance”, “blessing”, “power”, “victory”, and everyone cheers and flocks. Talk about “rejection”, “persecution”, “hardship”, “endurance” and people leave. The kingdom involves both!

The most sacrifice\suffering that I can think of in my life has been in my mission work. Sleepless nights, danger, exhaustion, opposition, some hunger, being way out of my comfort zone…still it’s pretty weak suffering. I have given up food during fasting, I have given up sleep to seek you, I have bypassed high-paying positions, but all these are so miniscule that it’s hard to say I have ever suffered.

Lord, I am not looking for “suffering” but I am willing to “suffer”. I want to give so generously and live so radically that it causes me to sacrifice in ways that I “feel it”.

About noon I climbed Attridge to my devotional spot overlooking 100 miles of trees, mountains, lakes and sky. Had a sweet time with Jesus.

Went to the lake and had an awesome time waterskiing and boating with Deb. At the campground we were within 200 feet of a huge black bear that got on his hind legs to view us. We kept our distance lest we enter into unwanted "suffering".

Just after that we saw a red headed woodpecker. The old Indian (native American…no…native Canadian…hmm) at the campground told us that this was a rare sighting and was a sign that we are blessed. We already felt blessed...God has been good.

Came back up the mountain and watched McCain's there is a man who suffered for his country! Wow! He suffered in unbearable ways but he was thanking God for the blessing of that suffering. Suffering and Blessing...Bears and Woodpeckers come together in the same package.

Shelley and Dwight arrived so we can work on the houses for the next two days.

September 04, 2008

FILL the BUCKET before You KICK it!

Note: During sabbatical this is a rough journal primarily for my purposes of tracking activities and thoughts...writing is consequentially reflective of this.

Read through 1 Corinthians...was moved by the rich truth, vibrant faith, passionate love, immovable foundation of the resurrection, powerful gifts of the Spirit, and the interactive dependency of the saints upon one another. Corinth a bunch of carnal Christians who nevertheless, are saved, loved, and experiencing God as Paul directs them towards maturity.

You can't help but be moved by the clarion call to LIVE LOVE. Love or you are NOTHING, accomplish NOTHING, and will be rewarded NOTHING!

After much prayer and a couple of uninstalls...I WON the wrestling match with Deb's computer and all her docs are safe...Thank you Jesus! Literally!

Took a long mountain bike ride with Deb with some berry picking stops along the way.

Went to Vernon and ran some errands then went and read on the Boat at the marina.
It was absolutely quiet with the campground empty and no other boats to be seen.
Finished the book, "The Four Hour Work Week" which I don't recommend as a values book because the author is on a different planet than most folks...but there are some great thoughts and strategies that I can repurpose for the life for Christ that I live. The author is out to live his "bucket list" but his "bucket" has big HOLES in it.

Came home and journaled and started brainstorming my "Bucket List". I have made several "bucket lists". The term was made popular by the movie "Bucket List" starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman (2007). I use the term a little differently...My question is, "What do I want to see, do, accomplish, experience, build before I kick the BUCKET?" What do I want to FILL the bucket with?

Here again the challenge is the blend between "My desires and God's direction"...I want to always DEFER to His direction but he has given me certain desires that align with His destiny for I plan "Deo Volante" which is Latin for "God Willing". Above all I want to LIVE LOVE! I don't want to MISS great things I could have done or experienced or built simply because I was sitting on my can (a bucket). I want to "Go for it" AND let "God guide!"

I want to FILL the BUCKET before I KICK the BUCKET!!

Saw the Northern Lights from the rooftop hot tub! Wow God you are artistic!

September 03, 2008

Chewing the Cud

Got up early to travel to Rome...that is Paul's book to the Romans.
Rich, life-giving, spirit-empowering, direction producing, truth from God.

My sabbatical has been such a delightful opportunity to just spend time soaking deeply in mass quantities of scripture...without any thoughts of "how will I teach this" or "how can I use this to hep others" or "what pressing problem in my life or our church is this giving me insight to"'s like Holy Bible Hot Tubbing! I feel my heart warming. I feel my spirit loosening up. I feel my mind becoming both emptying and filling up at the same time with a relaxation that goes to core of my being.

Climbed a high ridge called Attridge and spent time in prayer and was cool how a large doe ( in a doe a deer a female deer...for the city folk) was lying down in some blueberry bushes just 30 yards away...she didn't think I saw her so she was just lying there chewing her cud.

Chewing the cud, or ruminating as it is also called, is when a cow or other animal like a deer, eats, swallows, and then recalls their food from their stomache to chew on it some more. Sounds gross...but is it? We only get to taste our food, enjoy our food once...a big bite, a quick few chews, and boom, we are done. Not the savors a meal more than once!

Meditation in the Bible has the idea of "chewing the cud" receive a truth, then recall the truth, then review the truth over and over so to be reshaped by the truth, so to end up rejoicing in the truth even more!

Sabbatical is giving me time for something I stink at when I am at home...meditation!

Spent a lot of time with Deb analyzing our family budget to plan out how we can do more for the kingdom in the coming decade.

Then Deb's computer partially crashed...none of her documents are available and it's wigging out in several other ways. Spent four hours in a technical wrestling match in which I was soundly the problem continues.

How can the sweetness of a morning with God turn into an evening of wrestling with a demon possessed computer? At midnight Paul sang in midnight I screamed at the computer...I guess I need to "chew some more cud"!

September 02, 2008

Head Damage Point

Spent some time with Paul in his letter to the Romans...was impressively blessed by the sufficiency of grace through faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ! If my sins were held against me oh how hopeless I would be!
But to be justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone means I will NEVER be alone!

Went to the Farmer's Market in Vernon...met Pastor Stuart and Teresa and kids there...wonderful small town atmosphere that made me miss my Kansas small town roots.

Stuart and I drove to the town of Salmon Arm (who knew Salmon have arms?) to view the progress on the fourplex they purchased as an investment. Great deal they got on a sweet place. Am thrilled for them. We solved the problems of our churches and the world on the trip up and back...(now if someone would just ask our opinion :))

Did some reading in the afternoon and hiked to Bugaboos, for one last cinnamon roll on their last day of business until they reopen in December.

Pastor Stuart and his family only live 10 minutes down the mountain from our house. It was Taylor's (child #2 of 5) 12th we went down for pizza and the famous (see previous blog) chocolate cake. Sang a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday...the Canadian version (same as the American version but with a few "eh's?" thrown in...."Happy Birthday, eh?"

In our adult conversation, after the kids were securely riveted to the new Star Wars dvd we bought Taylor for his birthday, a simple question, "Do you surf?"...led to the GREAT GOD STORY of "HEAD DAMAGE POINT". Following job and money more than a clear calling of God, Stuart ended up candidating for a church. While there he was invited to surf (for his first time ever) at the lethal "HEAD DAMAGE POINT" in Australia. He jumped off the rocks into the pounding surf and almost lost his life. (Jumping off into our will is often more an exercise in foolishness than in faith).

But the story didn't stop led onwards to a time of seeking God and waiting, and waiting patiently and waiting joyfully...which created the "God call story" of how they got from Australia, to Scotland, to Calgary, then to a town of 600, then to an Edmonton mega-church, then to Vernon Alliance Church -- which at 1400 people is by far the largest church in this town of 60,000 and doing incredible kingdom work.

I thrill to sit and listen to the hand of God upon his servants as he leads them through a combination of "grace" and "faith".
"Grace" being those sovereign God moments where we do nothing but watch God show up in amazing ways.
"Faith" being those moments when we step way out of our comfort zone and say, "God if you don't come through, I'm through...finished" and then He meets us with his grace.

Deb and I have been discussing this MYSTERIOUS MIX of sovereignty and goal setting.
Are we foolish to use some of Sabbatical to plan the rest of our lives when the sovereignty of God can change everything in a moment? Is our planning a self-directed display of human arrogance?

The Lutheran Church I visited Sunday had at the top of it's bulletin this week...THIS WEEK, The LORD WILLING:...they feared to even print their schedule for the coming week lest God have other plans in mind. I appreciated that.

God says:
Prov 19:21 Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.
Prov 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.
Prov 21:5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit

SO...It seems to me that "to fail to plan is to plan to fail"...but if we trust our plans instead of God's guidance we can miss His "Lord, help me to prayerfully plan and then be quick to jettision my plans when your sovereignty reveals a different path."

Any other approach may lead me to "HEAD DAMAGE POINT"!

September 01, 2008

Rodeo Church

Went to the Lutheran church in Vernon, to visit fellow pastor, Roy White. (His son, Brent White, is a leader in our church and just went with me to Ethiopia). Roy did a great job leading a liturgical Lutheran service. Preached a fine message on patience from Romans 12.

The church had about 160 folks there with the majority over 70. Nice people, sincere about their faith.

Then drove to Willow Park Church in Kelowna (about 40 minutes) and caught their 11am service. This is a mega church with 4 locations linked by video messages. It seemed to be patterned like a hybrid of "saddleback and willow creek". After a couple of worship songs, then a professional quality video intro piece, I watched a video for 40 minutes...that was followed by communion and a couple more songs.

The message on "blessed are you when you are persecuted" was well done and sparked some personal questions in my own life. The congregation was average age 40 I would say.

My two different church experiences where quite divergent. I love the variety in the body of Christ. My concern lies with vitality and depth. Will we see mass quantities of churches die as the builder and boomer generations die? What quality and depth of faith will we pass on to the next generation?

In my opinion, I am troubled by video venues. They can be effective and there are arguments that can be made for their use. However, the Word of God is meant to be brought in an "incarnational" manner. That is the divine interaction between the Holy Spirit, the Holy Scripture, and the Holy Servant as the message is delievered to God's Holy People.
The truth was not affected by the video delivery system, but I felt the power of the Word was diminished. The sincerity was there but the personal engagement and sense that God was flowing through his vessel in that moment for the needs of the people of the gathered...that was lacking for me.

Made me think deeply about my presentation of God's to engage more deeply when 400 folks are looking at plea is that they would not just hear the propositional truth but they would hear the personal truth...the impact of the Holy Spirit for them in that moment. I must deepen my personal incarnational preparation for that to happen.

Came up and took a long hike with Deb in the splendor of the mountains.
Feasted in Romans on a few chapters.

Then went to the IPE...Inner-Provincial Exhibition in Armstrong a huge fair and rodeo in a small town. After seeing all manner of cows, chickens, and swine (including a calf that was only 2 hours old) we settled into the rodeo...some of the best cowboys anywhere competed. We had great seats and I even snagged one of the six tshirts shot out of the clown's tshirt was a brilliant catch according to my wife.

Honestly, the Rodeo was more engaging, exciting and personal than either church good as the services were. I believe, our churches would benefit from less predictability and more wild and wooly God-stories of people taking the ride of their life... yes, sometimes getting bucked off and ending in the dirt...but also, sometimes riding the bull until the ringmaster pulls you safely onto their horse. Cowboys don't want the tame rides....the winners want the wildest bull available...deliver me from tame Christianity that is safe, predictable and boring!

Got home and ended a glorious day under a canopy of bright stars (39 degrees out) in a rooftop hot tub (102 degrees).

August 31, 2008

My Favorite Love Song

Yesterday was devoted to 4 of my favorite things in life: reading, hiking, conversing with Deb and worshipping Jesus.

Began my 16 chapter down the Romans of my favorite books in the Bible.
Paul emphasizes what I call the "God Song of Creation"...God is revealing himself through the beauty and power and order and intricacy of creation. If you listen to creation with your senses and your spirit and your can hear the "witness" of God's voice singing His love over his children. This song is so prevalent and powerful that Paul says, it leaves us without an excuse if we are trying to deny God and his goodness.

Father, let these months of Sabbatical be an exercise in listening so deeply to your love song over my life, that I begin to reverberate that song more clearly to all I meet.

Ordered a new book for my Kindle (Amazon reading device) called "The 4 Hour Work Week" by Tim Ferris...had been recommended to me by some of my business buddies. I will give you a few thoughts on later...but for now let me say...while the guy is sharp, he has a whole different set of values and ethics than me so much of the book is a sharp contrast to my life...thank God! But there are some brilliant pieces of advice in it as well.

Also continued, Love God with All Your Mind...something more Christians need to think about.

Took a long gorgeous hike eating berries and watching for bears....LISTENING to MY FAVORITE LOVE SONG...God's love poured out on me through creation.

Went to worship at Vernon Alliance Church (our BC church). My brother and friend and the associate pastor Greg brought a good message on the "Scandal of Forgiveness"...emphasizing that "a lifestyle of forgiveness and grace giving may not make sense at first, but it ends up giving you what you really want and need!"

"Lord, I want not one ounce of grudge against anyone in my life. I want to quickly cover any error or offense against me with your amazing grace"

August 30, 2008


Spent the morning in ACTS and in acts.

As has been said, this book of the Bible could have as accurately been entitled the "ACTS of the HOLY SPIRIT" instead of the "ACTS of the APOSTLES". What "acts" does the Holy Spirit initiate and empower through the life of a believer? It's amazing to read this book and watch the Holy Spirit in action through people. Whether it is transforming a Saul, or empowering a Stephen, or giving a divine appointment to Philip, or using a Barnabas to encourage, or starting a church through a business woman named Lydia, or serving the poor through a Timothy...

What kind of ACTS does the Holy Spirit want to do through the rest of my life?
What would the book "The ACTS of LARRY" read like?
Those can be quite small...such as doing the dishes, serving my wife, giving an encouraging word.
Those can be quite significant...such as starting a new church, raising up a new leader, etc.
Holy Spirit, my helper, my guide, my counselor, lead my life moment by moment and season by season...I say, "YES" to your sovereignty and your wisdom for my life!

The Holy Spirit helped me do the ACT of going to the laundry mat for my wife for 2 hours!
There I sat reading "Loving God with Your Mind" by J.P.Moreland as the grittiest folks of Vernon aired their dirty laundry. Listening to their talk of their party the night before and the messes their lives was an interesting backdrop to my theological book. I came away committed to mix the "absolute truth" of the gospel with the "acts of compassion" of the gospel.

Before the Laundry mat I had taken Deb to a nice lunch and had helped her clean the house. It was a chore day for sure.

Afterwards came home and finished the book of's been so refreshing just to soak in the Word of God.

We ended the day with a treat...literally and socially. We spent the evening eating AMAZING Chocolate Cake (similar to what's pictured above) made by the amazing Teresa - mom of 5, budding esthetician, wife of Pastor Stuart, accomplished pianist. As usual laughed, shared, relaxed, and edified bytheir company.

August 29, 2008

"...TO YOU"

Note: During sabbatical this blog is serving as a brief, daily, informal, semi-personal journal of activities and thoughts...written in a quick and simple style.

Got Linz and her two friends out the door and on the road back to Seattle to catch their flights. Spent some time cleaning...then dove into the book of Acts with great eagerness.

Then worked on the travel details for the trips we are taking in September and October during our sabbatical time. That took much of the morning, but worked out well. Worked on the roof of the house for an hour and half dealing with drain and water issues.

Finished the book "Who are you and What do you want?". Good book that challenges you to think through 4 key life questions.

Read more info on the evangelist\healer who took the nation by storm over the past six much so that ABC did a special on his revival in Florida. The info broke my heart for him, his wife, his ministry, the body of Christ and for the name of Jesus. While rocketing to the top of the Christian world, he had been having an affair with a woman on his staff and also going through bouts of drunkenness. His marriage, which had been in trouble for a long time, moved to separation. The lack of true accountability and his penchant for independence helped exacerbate his dysfunction.

Having been through this with a pastor I worked for in 1985, who also ended up on an ABC special, I am especially sensitive to this. The Christian world is so quick to make heroes of those God seems to be using in powerful ways without ever questioning their integrity, their marriage, their accountability, their stewardship of God's finances.

Yet Jesus was so clear that obedience to His LORDSHIP in the private areas of our lives is what really matters. Every one claiming gifts of the Spirit should frame Matthew 7:21-23 and put it everywhere. Miracle working is not God's stamp of approval upon your life, it's his grace extended to others.

Later in the day, I read more in the book of Acts..., climbed up "Christmas Bowl" (the ski run behind our house (pictured above) and then climbed it again with Deb and spent an hour picking wild blueberries for pancakes and muffins. Watched Obama's acceptance speech and then Deb and I watched a cute movie.

As I finished the day by praying in the hot tub, I sensed the Lord impress on my mind two words, "TO YOU"....As I was reflecting on my time in the Word and the evangelist and Obama's speech...I sensed that I am often influenced and at times even controlled by this question, "HOW DO I LOOK?" Do I look good to people, to the church, to friends, to peers, etc.?

The Lord seemed to to say, "Larry, you must add these 2 words to the question that you so often ask, "How do I look...TO YOU?" There is only ONE OPINION that really holds any weight in the private places and in the public places...Lord, how do I look TO YOU? Just between you and me, am I thinking, acting, speaking, relating, being motivated in a way that is pleasing to you? TO YOU oh Lord I lift my life.